Former bodybuilder and bikini competitor Siliana Gaspard has launched a desperate search for her husband of 11 years, publishing the last photo taken of the 265lb ex-Tag Team champion as he stood on sand in his swimwear at Marina del Rey in California.
Fans fear the towering 39-year-old could have drowned in a strong tide that carried him out to sea off the newly-reopened Venice Beach idyll, where he had reportedly earlier rescued his young son from the waves.
“Last seen wearing swim shorts”, Gaspard wrote to her following of almost 30,000 on Instagram, urging anyone with information to contact her or telephone police.
“If you have seen Shad, please message me. Please don’t flood me asking what happened. We want to know if he’s been seen and where.”
At least three lifeguard trucks rushed to the shore and a helicopter search was later mounted after Gaspard and a group of swimmers were caught in a strong afternoon rip current at the beach, which welcomed back visitors earlier this month after being temporarily closed as part of public health precautions around the COVID-19 outbreak in the US.
Although Gaspard has not been officially named as the missing man, the Los Angeles County Fire Department told CNN that a black male in his 30s had been “submerged” after a young boy had been saved from the sea.
“Weather permitting, we’ll look for him in the air,” said Trina Schrader, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“We’re using all resources to try to recover him as soon as possible.”
Personal trainer and fitness fanatic Gaspard met Shad at a bar in Tampa in 2011 when the fighter, known as ‘Da Beast’, was beginning his move into acting with a part in a William Shakespeare play.
He had left WWE, in which he was best known as a member of duo Cryme Tyme alongside partner JTG, the previous year, but remained active as an independent wrestler.
Former wrestler Lindsay Kay Hayward, who is the record holder for the tallest woman in a lead acting role, was among those offering their support to ex-Bulgarian tennis prodigy Gaspard.
“I can’t even imagine what you’re going through in this tough time,” wrote Hayward, whose 6ft 9in frame saw her named ‘Isis the Amazon’. “You are so beautiful and strong and I just wanted you to know I’m thinking of and praying for you in this difficult time.”
Fans of Gaspard expressed their fears and praised him for his crime-fighting heroics in 2016, when the powerhouse seized the headlines for body-slamming a suspected armed robber outside a gas station before performing a citizen’s arrest.
“You want to hope for a miracle that he’s found and ok but you’ve got to be realistic, unfortunately,” said one. “If he got swept up in a tide, he probably perished. This is so sad.”
Veteran WWE star MVP paid tribute to Gaspard while issuing a statement from the former competitor’s family to almost 424,000 followers on Twitter.
“Shad Gaspard had a huge heart,” he said. “He was like an annoying little brother at times. We often gave each other a hard time, but always with love.
“He always had a big smile on his face and was ready to share a laugh. I have had a lot of friends and colleagues die. This one hurts different.
“He recently sent me some of the screenplays he was working on. He had big goals. Big plans. His final act on this earth was to give his life to save his son’s.
“His family appreciates all the love, support and concern through this horrible ordeal.”